Rev. 19 – Christ and His Bride
Seminarian Aching to Nourish the Bride
I had a profound interaction with a seminarian recently that really drew both of us to the culmination of the mystery of the priesthood, and our call as Church to be the “Bride of Christ;” and thus, the Bride of the priest who acts “in persona Christi.”
This seminarian is especially blest because he is being well formed in Blessed John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, and is open to his own on-going inner-healing. Plus, he’s very close to Mary, which is primary for any seminarian/priest (and really anyone) in living out their vocation.
He was sharing how he has recently found himself falling in love with women he’s been meeting. And, this experience is stirring his longing to be a total self-gift to another.
He is aware that, we as humans have a natural tendency to “fall in love” with others in a way that others may deeply touch our hearts and draw us to them. And, that if he’s called to the priesthood, he is called to sublimate and transcend these natural longings, to enter into a deeper, supernatural love relationship, with Jesus, and with Him, His Bride the Church.
I am very aware of what he was speaking of as well, because I have experienced this amidst my own celibate journey. But, these “falling in love” experiences have only aided me in opening my heart even more deeply to the one who is my ultimate love. As men and women come into my life who bless me and awaken in me a stirring of love and affection, I am aware that they are representing different attributes of Christ who is our Divine Bridegroom and perfect lover, and also Mary, who is perfect Mother.
Such experiences always draw me into a deeper, more personal relationship with Jesus (the Father and Holy Spirit) and Mary.
So, as this seminarian and I were talking, and he spoke of this ache in his heart, he went on to say, “I know when one becomes a priest, the celibate life changes, because this longing I have to be self-gift is fulfilled at the Holy sacrifice of the Mass (it’s like going from engagement to marriage).” He was speaking of this great mystery of the priest’s mission to become one with Christ in giving himself in total self-sacrifice for his bride the Church.
I responded to him that this is truly what I experience at Holy Mass, though on the receiving end. I find myself so grateful for the priest’s yes in sacrificing himself with Christ that we as Bride are nourished with the Body and Blood of Christ.
I told him that my heart longs for Jesus in the Eucharist. And how it aches so deeply that He may be lifted up for whom He really is – of which so few are aware. And, when priests are living out this mystery of their vocation, they are able to validate and call forth in me/in the Bride the Church, this longing and yearning for Jesus in the Eucharist, and we are nourished spiritually. But when priests don’t live the great mystery of their vocation, I/we experience great suffering and a malnourishment spiritually. (Which is why it is paramount that we pray for our priests faithfully.)
This seminarian then said to me that if he were a priest he would want so badly to give me Jesus in the Eucharist (he seemed to already be feeling this longing)… In this my heart was warmed, for it is in this that I am/we are sated and encouraged forward in our communion with our Creator.
What great complementarity there is meant to be between the priest and his congregation/bride. Ideally there should be a reciprocal communion between the priest’s total self-gift of his life in order to bring us Jesus… and we as Bride being totally disposed to receive our Divine Bridegroom.
Yes, we are living in a fallen world and all broken to varying degrees, and thus lacking in our entry into this GREAT mystery of Holy Mass. But it is the ideal for which we should all strive.
All of us – priest and parishioner alike, should be conscious of preparing ourselves for Holy Mass; in particular calling upon Mary, Spotless Bride, to intercede for us, that we may grow in having her disposition and receptivity in receiving Jesus in Holy Communion.
“And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband…” (Rev 21:2).
written by Lilla Marie Lottinger